Hunting for Slarths [PLOT]

Posted on Fri Sep 11th, 2020 @ 12:52am by Petty Officer 2nd Class Fhiri & Lieutenant JG Owen Woodhouse

Mission: Mission 6: To Your Scattered Bodies Go
Location: Main Engineering
Timeline: 19 May, 2395 - 1900 Hours


"You'd think something drawing this much energy would be pretty obvious," Lieutenant Woodhouse commented to the Ferengi as he stepped off the ladder he'd just descended from decks above and unfastened the tricorder from the holster on his hip. "Can't break the laws the physics, afterall. If something is still here, we should be able to find it."

Fhiri grunted. She wasn't happy to have been pulled away from her project on the bridge. She'd been upgrading the computer systems that managed the new holographic controls for flight ops. And now she was digging around the recesses of the Firebird not exactly sure what they were looking for. "Perfectly good petty officer, wasted on a basic search," Fhiri muttered. "Why don't we just get Emily Mox to find it. She's always finding things where they shouldn't be."

"If you think she'd be helpful, then why not," Owen agreed, not realizing the sarcasm of Fhiri's suggestion.

Fhiri stepped off the ladder and looked at the lieutenant. He was one of the new ones. Fhiri thought that anyone who hadn't been on Far Wanderer was new and therefore unknown. She couldn't tell if he was serious, joking or clueless. "Sir, the captain has some strong reservations when it comes to allowing children to work on the ship. Personally I think it is wasteful. Children can be very good workers if given the right amount of oversight," Fhiri said.

Clueless was probably the best label for it. "Oh," Owen said, furrowing his brows. "I knew there was a child aboard, but I didn't know her name," he shrugged and decided to just ignore the Ferengi's galactic views on child labor. He refocused on the task at hand. "Okay, Petty Officer. Let's think. If you were a thing that could drain power, where would you be? A power junction? EPS relay?"

Fhiri tilted her head to the side. Lieutenant Woodhouse must not get out a lot, she thought. Maybe she could sell him some holovids. She shrugged and took her tricorder from the utility belt she'd designed herself. "Well I don't think it is an EPS relay. The plasma conduction patterns at EPS relays are pretty standard and Romulan technology would have a hard time syncing up with it. Plus it is messy. You ever seen someone killed by a busted EPS relay? Not good." She waved the tricorder around. "But maybe the power junction or even the tertiary access panel in a parallel dynamic array. Over this way."

"Oh, the tertiary access panel," Owen mulled to himself as he followed along with her in what he assumed to be that direction. "Makes sense because tertiary-redundant components are manually checked with somewhat less frequency than primary and secondary components. Wouldn't you need someone to open the panel for you to install the device, though? Or at least wouldn't it trip an alarm somewhere?"

Fhiri pondered the idea as they walked. They had to hunch down and walk bent over for a bit until the passage opened up again. "Good point. That panel is monitored, obviously, because it isn't on the regular maintenance schedule. I think I've only heard Chief Harlan gripe about them one time since I can on board," Fhiri said. "And that's unusual for him. But it could be they bypassed the computer monitoring systems, which would make this all even more... bad?"

"I've heard stories about Chief Harlan, even before I arrived on board," Owen asided as he consulted his tricorder again. "Hm. Are you seeing this? Almost a three percent decrease in plasma ionization in the last twenty meters," he sounded almost excited. "We must be close. At what point does plasma become unstable?"

"Sir, plasma becomes unstable where turbulence occurs due to changes in the characteristics of a plasma, temperature, density, electric fields, magnetic field, that kind of thing." The passage turned to the left and up ahead Fhiri could see the power junction up ahead. It was covered by a panel that glowed with green dots and one flickering orange one. The two stopped in front of the panel.

"The orange dot seems ominous," Owen commented casually, as though looking at a burnt cookie and not something that could potentially be the work of foreign sabotage. He exhaled a sigh. He supposed he had every authority to order Fhiri to open the panel and check it out while he stood back, but that wasn't his style. Even if she was the engineer. "Ok, stand back and I'll open it up."

Fhiri didn't need to be told twice. There was no profit in being the person to open things first, especially if it was dangerous. Unless there WAS profit in which case you should push everyone out of the way. "Yes, sir. I've never opened an access panel like this. Any idea what is going to happen? Should we get Lieutenant Oggt down here just in case?" Fhiri's imagination was generating all kinds of nightmare scenarios. Perhaps I need to stop watching so many holonovels myself she thought.

Of course he didn't have any idea and the tricorder was of no help. Whatever was inside was heavily shielded from scans. Owen moved into position, glanced back at Fhiri for a moment, then back to the panel. He subconsciously scrunched up his face and held his breath as he keyed the release sequence into the controls.

Fhiri watched the control panel slide open, which was normal. But once the panel was all the way open, she saw the orange light change red and then, a moment later, a red light illuminated the access corridor.

=^=Unauthorized Access Detected. Unauthorized Modifications Detected. Warning Power Surge Detected=^=

"Well that sounds bad," Fhiri said. She ran a quick scan of the interior of the panel, shaking her head as she saw the results. "Sir, I think we found what we were looking for. My tricorder is reading a foreign data device slaved to our systems with... some kind of crude coupler. Definitely not ours. And it looks like it is attempting to overload the differential photon coils with a sonic interface link."

"I'm going to pretend I understood all of that because it sounds bad and I don't think we have time for you to explain it," Owen said, brows furrowed. "Can we unplug it or turn it off?"

Fhiri shrugged and scratched at one of her teeth. "Maybe? I mean, I figure we have about five minutes or so before that thing explodes and destroys this entire part of the ship. Might as well try to stop it," she said and moved closer. Inside the panel she saw the foreign piece of technology. It looked like a cross between a spider-web and a slarth. Slarth's were lumpy reptiles that lived on Ferenginar and excuded a potent acid. You could also sell their claws for a nice profit if you could get them. She put the tricorder away and pulled out a set of small tools from her belt. "So, how are you liking the ship, sir?"

"Keeping me busy, never a shortage of things to do," Owen answered uneasily as he inspected the device from over her shoulder, tracing the points where it interfaced with the ship's systems. "What do you need me to do?"

Fhiri worked for a moment, examining where the device was connected and trying to grasp exactly what it was doing. "Sir, this device has hard contact points in twelve spots. I don't think we have time to remove them all. Our best bet is to interrupt the power supply that is feeding it. I'm going to look for any triggers that would cause a detonation from loss of power flow. If you could see whether we can do something with the power, that would be great," Fhiri said.

Owen gritted his teeth and looked around for ideas. Diverting energy was something generally accomplished on the bridge or in main engineering through relay controls, but without other systems on-line he wasn't sure it was even feasible. He thought of systems that drew large amounts of power, but directing unbridled power manually through internal systems would cause cascading failures, explosions, and possibly casualties. "Maybe...," he thought aloud, tracing the conduit paths across the open ceiling in the engineering space. "What about the navigational deflector?"

Fhiri hunched over for a better view of the connections, her face close to the hardware. She thought about what the lieutenant said for a split second. "Possible, sir. You're going to have to redirect the input to this section and vent it out through the navigational deflector. It might cause some kind of feedback. I've never heard of a live transfer like this. Might just explode us both. But... we're running out of time anyway," Fhiri said. "I'm so hungry."

"You like tube grubs?" Owen asked as he started opening other nearby panels along the conduit route. "You figure out a way to disarm that thing and I'll buy-- oh, here we go. Plasma relay 66b. This is going to take a bit. How long did you say we have?"

Fhiri made a gurgling sound that Ferengi used to indicate satisfaction. It could also be used to indicate sexual arousal but the lieutenant didn't need to know that. "I love tube grubs. I especially love the big fat ones when they burst between your teeth. Some of them have different flavors, which makes it even better. We've got about three minutes until we die," Fhiri said. She pulled out a micro-plasma welder and began spot clearing the attachments. "I think I should have this disarmed in time. The connections weren't hard welded sufficiently and I can remove them without triggering an early activation. Probably. If not, we won't know it."

Owen gave an involuntary shudder at the description how delicious tube grubs could be, but then sobered up quickly upon hearing the timeline for what was likely to be their early retirement from life. "Computer, set a count down from 2 minutes, 55 seconds." If he hadn't already been working as quickly as he could, he turned it up even more as he programmed in the rerouting of that particular segment. "Done." He moved to the next, pulling off the cover quickly and diving right into the adjustments. How many more were left? Five? Six? He couldn't think about that.

Fhiri's whole world became the remaining contact points as she carefully removed each one. She was proud to see her hands remained steady, even as the computer countdown sounded.

=^=One minute remaining in Countdown =^=

The young Ferengi let out a low growl. One more contact point... "Done!" She yelled and turned to see how Lieutenant Woodhouse was doing.

Owen was wrestling free a stuck solenoid controller inside the last relay panel for what seemed like a small eternity. "Come on. Come on, you bastard," he growled as his grip strained to free the jammed part. "It's not budging!"

=^= Ten seconds remaining in Countdown =^=

He felt a swell of energy well up inside of himself and he focused on the part, like opening a stuck pickle jar, and felt it reluctantly break free. "Got it," he huffed. "Do it. Now!"

Fhiri had already tied her tricorder into the override command system and before Lieutenant Woodhouse was finished speaking she triggered the power transfer from the device they'd been examining, through the main EPS conduit that lead to the navigational deflector. Inside the jeffries tube there was a massive flare of white-blue light, bright enough that both Fhiri and Owen instinctively covered their faces. A second later there was silence and darkness in the tube and then the emergency lighting bloomed softly around them.

=^=Power Surge Successfully Vented. All systems nominal=^= The computer's voice stirred Fhiri. She blinked twice and picked up her tricorder that she must have dropped.

"That went well," the Ferengi said.

=^=Bridge to Lieutenant Woodhouse, this is Captain Llwyedd. What the hell just happened=^=

Fhiri grimaced. "I'll just take this device down to Chief Harlan while you take care of... yeah. Bye!" She said and snatched the deactivated alien device from the wall conduit.

Owen had barely let out a sigh of relief when his shoulders tensed again. He nodded to Fhiri and tapped his commbadge. "Uh... well, Sir, we found and neutralized a foreign device before it managed to overload and blow up the ship. We're taking it to engineering for analysis, full report pending." It felt good to say it out loud and he let himself smile, "and sorry about the deflector dish."

Lieutenant JG Owen Woodhouse
Assistant Chief Operations Officer
USS Firebird NCC-88298

Petty Officer Third Class Fhiri
Transporter Specialist
USS Firebird NCC-88298